My doctor found skin cancer on my head. He said it was the best kind there was, which does not spread, and that I was lucky. He will just cut it out himself and I will be healthy again. WRONG!
Unlike what you might think at first glance, this post is not about cancer or health. It is about perception and beliefs. It is also about how important it is to take care of ourselves for anything else in our life to be possible and why we should teach this to our kids.
You see, before discovering this growth on my head, I was perfectly healthy. Of course, I had all the signs of the passing years, some sporting injuries and other marks left by life’s adventures, but I was eating very well, thinking positively, walking as much as I could and considering myself a healthy man.
Additionally, I spent my life enjoying the sun and thinking its light was healthy for my bones. I remember how much I enjoyed spending time at the beach, at the pool or on hikes on sunny days, when the world was beautiful and warm.
That is all history now. I have evidence (the picture of which, for your own good, I will not post here) that the sun can do terrible things to my head. The Internet says “my” cancer is typically linked to skin damage from the sun during childhood.
Worse still, I may still have nasty little skin cancers all over my body, ready to emerge.
It all started by picking something off the floor, while somebody else opened a drawer above my head and left it open. I straightened and my head hit the corner of the drawer, as you would have guessed. A little wound, nothing major.
At some stage, Eden and I went to be checked at a skin cancer clinic. They looked us over with their special light, even at the top of our heads, and found nothing. I asked the lady doctor whether she thought anything of that wound I still had on my head, but she said no.
18 months later, I was still wondering why that wound had not healed and decided to go to the doctor.
The doctor said the tissue around the wound was probably inflamed. He had seen this sort of thing a lot and would cut it out for me in his office, if I wanted.
I believed him, so I came.
He cut. He made 6 stitches. I felt him make 3 of them. The piece he cut was a lot larger than I had expected. He put it in a jar and sent it to the lab. “Hey, that’s a good idea”, I thought.
A week later, the doctor took out my stitches and told me I had a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC for short) and more surgery would be needed to remove all of it. He referred me to a general surgeon.
This time, Ronit came with me. Are you sitting down? Good. The surgeon said my tumor was too big for him and I would need a plastic surgeon to move a piece of my skin to cover the big hole and maybe get some skin from my leg too. He referred me to a plastic surgeon across the hall.
At that stage, I was not going to be moved along by doctors any longer. Ronit and I had a serious talk about options and decided we had to find a doctor we could trust. Luckily, we have a friend who is a dentist himself and had some experience with BCC removals, so I contacted him.
It turned out he had been referred to the SAME doctors, but managed to find others who were much better and had done a great job for him. He even sent me pictures of him, “before and after” style (sorry, not sharing those either).
Somehow, even though I have already had the plastic surgery and I am recovering nicely, I still bump into things I did not think about. At a follow-up visit today, I finally understood the real extent of what had been done to my poor head.
Once I discovered I had a cancer on my head, my mind got into “get this thing out of my body NOW” overdrive mode and I was lucky it ended well for me.
Prior to all of this, another belief I had was that doctors cared about their patients and knew what they were talking about. I was not naïve enough to trust every word they said, but when things seemed reasonable, I went along. Specifically, I thought that doctors could diagnose properly, like skin doctors at skin cancer clinics.
While I was having my head shaved, the (extremely nice) lady who was getting me ready told me her doctor had missed many problems with her skin that had been later picked up by a specialist.
So out the door went my belief in doctors through all this hullabaloo.
Let me share with you what I have learned from all this:
- Sun is good in moderation
- Some damage is not visible until much later in life
- Sunscreen is not just for sissies and parents are not out to make their kids look uncool outside. Sunscreen can actually prevent serious stuff from happening
- Doctors are human beings. Some are good and some are not so good. Choosing a good doctor is simply critical to getting good medical advice
- The times of the good old family doctor are over. Patients are customers. While they have the freedom to choose their doctor, they also have the ultimate responsibility for their own medical care. Doctors are advisors or consultants. No more
- When something in your body is not right, go see a doctor. Worst case, you will hear it is nothing
- Being healthy helps you recover and prevents complications
- Healthy people still have medical issues
- Personal development helps a lot in difficult situations. A few years ago, I would have gone completely numb. Now, one of my most important skills is the ability to focus on “What’s next?” despite being scared
- Good friends are priceless and can literally save your hide (did I go too far with the pun?)
- Life is short. When I go, I will be sorry for taking time away from my kids and my wife
These lessons may come in handy for you, but it will be even better if you build them into your parenting. Since kids form their beliefs mostly based on what their parents say, now is the best time to tell them about this man who grew up thinking the sun could not hurt him and did not protect himself well, no matter what his mom said…